Andre Ethier scratched from Dodgers’ lineup in Game 2 of NLCS; Hanley Ramirez a game-time decision.

Andre Ethier

Andre Ethier played 13 innings in center field in Game 1 and will start Game 2 on the bench. (Associated Press photo)

Dodgers center fielder Andre Ethier played 13 innings in his first game in the field since Sept. 13.

That was more than enough for one day — or two.

Saturday, Ethier arrived at Busch Stadium feeling sore and was given a day off in favor of Skip Schumaker in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said that X-rays on Ethier’s left leg came back negative, but Schumaker will bat seventh and play center field against his former employer, the St. Louis Cardinals.

“He was sore at the end of the game last night,” Mattingly said, which is something that Ethier wouldn’t admit to when surrounded by reporters in the wee hours Saturday morning.

Regardless, Ethier is available to pinch hit and double-switch late in the game today, Mattingly said.
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Daily Distractions: Andre Ethier in center field? ‘If we get it, it’s a nice surprise.’

Andre Ethier

Andre Ethier grounded out in a pinch-hit appearance in Game 1 on Thursday. (Getty Images)

Andre Ethier ran out a ground ball to first base on Thursday night, and his left foot didn’t fall off.

Better yet, there seems to be some improvement in the health of the Dodgers’ center fielder, who’s been limited to pinch-hitting duties in the National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said that Ethier “could possibly stay in the game if it’s the right situation” if he reaches base in Game 2 tonight.

That’s an important step forward for a player who limped onto the field for warmups Wednesday and still doesn’t look completely right compared to his healthy teammates. Ethier injured his left ankle in early September and has two at-bats in the past three weeks.

Still, Mattingly doesn’t expect to get Ethier back in the outfield before the series ends.

“I haven’t really counted on it,” the manager said Friday. “As the days go on, it just gets better and better. But I’ve really kind of resigned myself to the fact that this guy’s coming off the bench. If I’m able to get that, fine. But I’m trying to get Scott (Van Slyke) some time out there, as far as work. Dee (Gordon) is getting some time in, just in case of emergency. Hopefully this thing just keeps getting better, but we’ll see.

“If we get it, it’s a nice surprise.”

The plan, then, is to keep Skip Schumaker in center field, with Van Slyke the backup. Schumaker is in the Dodgers’ starting lineup for Game 2.

Some bullet points for a National Taco Day:
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Where does Thursday’s win rank among Clayton Kershaw’s best?

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw struck out 12 Atlanta Braves batters in Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Thursday. It was his first career postseason win, and his first win ever against the Braves. (Getty Images)

Clayton Kershaw was asked where Thursday night’s win ranked among the best of his career. It was his first postseason win in his sixth postseason game (third start), and he allowed just one earned run on three hits in seven innings.

“It’s up there,” Kershaw said. “It’s probably — it might be the best just because it’s my first postseason win. I haven’t ever won a game. We got to win in one other game that I pitched that I started in, but this one definitely has special meaning to me for sure.”

A couple facts and figures about Kershaw from tonight’s game that won’t make tomorrow’s editions:
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Skip Schumaker in center field, Yasiel Puig bats fifth, in Dodgers’ Game 1 lineup.

Ryan Braun

Skip Schumaker is 4 for 9 with a double in his career against Kris Medlen. (Getty Images)

Skip Schumaker will start in center field and bat seventh, as Andre Ethier will be relegated to the bench, for Game 1 of the Dodgers’ National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly will load up the middle of the lineup with power bats: Hanley Ramirez is hitting third, Adrian Gonzalez fourth and Yasiel Puig fifth, with Carl Crawford leading off for the first time since Sept. 8.

Puig has batted fifth only once, an Aug. 25 game against the Boston Red Sox. He finished 0-for-3.

There were fewer surprises in the Braves’ lineup, which has had little success against Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw in the past.

Four Braves positional starters have career at-bats against Kershaw: Justin Upton, Chris Johnson, Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward. They’re a combined 5 for 47 (.106) with 17 strikeouts; Heyward has struck out in all four plate appearances against Kershaw.

Only Mark Ellis hasn’t faced Atlanta starter Kris Medlen among Dodgers position players. A.J. Ellis (1-for-1), Hanley Ramirez (5-for-9), Skip Schumaker (4-for-9) and Yasiel Puig (1-for-3) are a combined 11-for-22 in their careers against Medlen. Adrian Gonzalez (0-for-8), Juan Uribe (0-for-7) and Carl Crawford (0-for-3) are still looking for their first career hit against the right-hander.

The full lineups for both teams:
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San Francisco Giants 6, Dodgers 4

Ricky Nolasco

Ricky Nolasco has allowed 17 earned runs in his last 12 innings, spanning three starts. (Associated Press photo)

If you looked beyond the final score, beyond Ricky Nolasco‘s struggles, you might have noticed the difference between the playoff team and the non-playoff team Wednesday night at AT&T Park.

San Francisco starter Barry Zito was removed from the game, likely his last as a Giant, after pitching five solid innings with the Dodgers trailing 5-2. Zito did not allow a hit until the fourth inning and he did not react well to being removed in the fifth.

A KCAL camera followed the left-hander as he stomped from one end of the dugout to another. Zito appeared to swipe at a water cooler and hastily discard a paper cup, nothing too crazy and nothing that was too difficult to comprehend. After signing a 7-year contract worth $126 million back in 2007, Zito mostly underperformed (ERA-plus of 86) while his teammates won the World Series twice. Wednesday night might have been his last chance to do something right in a Giants uniform; after 77 pitches, he was done.

Nolasco was Zito’s opposite. He labored through a 24-pitch second inning in which the Giants scored three runs, all on a bases-loaded triple by former Dodger Tony Abreu that might have been a grand slam elsewhere.

A two-run home run by Pablo Sandoval in the fourth inning, and an RBI double by Abreu in the sixth, stuck Nolasco with six runs (all earned) in 5 ⅔ innings. He was allowed to throw 95 pitches and pitch into the sixth inning, and it didn’t raise an eyebrow.

For Zito, there was nothing to be gained by his excellence beyond the moment, while giving Nolasco a chance to pitch out of his struggles meant something to the Dodgers, even if they ultimately lost.
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Dodgers draw Barry Zito in their penultimate game against the San Francisco Giants.

Barry Zito

Barry Zito is replacing Madison Bumgarner on the mound for the Giants tonight. (Getty Images)


Veteran Giants left-hander Barry Zito is starting in place of Madison Bumgarner against the Dodgers tonight in San Francisco.

The Giants’ decision to shut down Bumgarner after 31 (mostly good) starts should be a good one for the Dodgers. Zito (4-11) is closing the books on the worst of his 14 major-league seasons and almost certainly his last as a Giant. It’s an important start. It also closes the book on the landmark case against overpaying for a free-agent pitcher with a declining strikeout rate in the middle of his career. To wit: Zito never had an ERA-plus below 100 in seven seasons with the A’s. He signed a seven-year, $126 million contract with San Francisco at age 28 and never posted an ERA-plus above 100 as a Giant.

For the Dodgers, the implications are more subtle.

The starting infield of Michael Young, Skip Schumaker, Nick Punto and Jerry Hairston Jr. is auditioning for jobs in the playoffs. Of the four, Hairston (.370/.541/.630) and Schumaker (.368/.368/.526) have enjoyed considerable success against Zito, while Punto (.286/.286/.286) and Young (.236/.292/.315) have not.

Ricky Nolasco will make what is likely his final regular-season start for the Dodgers. Nolasco has struggled in his last two starts, including a Sept. 14 game against the Giants in which he allowed five earned runs in 1 ⅓ innings — the shortest start of his career. He might still be the Dodgers’ number-three starter in the playoffs depending on the matchup; no announcement has been made beyond Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke pitching games 1 and 2. A good start here might be his last chance to get untracked before October.

Here are the full lineups for both teams:
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Daily Distractions: Chemistry, cover boys, and Chet Faker’s new tune.

Yasiel Puig Hollywood ReporterYasiel Puig is this week’s Hollywood Reporter cover boy.

Watch the video included with the story. I think it does a great job peeling back the curtain on the sort of shenanigans that go on inside the Dodgers’ clubhouse all the time — not just between Puig and Juan Uribe, and not just when the Hollywood Reporter is making a celebrity out of a baseball player.

Those kind of antics are often difficult for reporters to put into words, language barrier or not. Even when you quote the banter verbatim (here’s a good example from today between Skip Schumaker and Nick Punto), the light-hearted freneticness of the moment doesn’t always jump out of the page/computer screen in a way that screams “this team obviously has good chemistry.”

But yeah, this team obviously has good chemistry.

Some bullet points for a Pakistani Independence Day:
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Andre Ethier (calf tightness) scratched from Dodgers’ starting lineup against Mets.

Andre Ethier

Andre Ethier is batting .241 (7 for 29) since getting hit with a pitch by Chicago Cubs pitcher Pedro Strop on Aug. 4 (Getty Images)

Andre Ethier was scratched from the Dodgers’ starting lineup before Tuesday’s game against the New York Mets because of tightness in his left calf.

Ethier wasn’t at the ballpark during clubhouse media availability and did not take batting practice on the field with the rest of the Dodgers on Tuesday. It’s possible that he would be able to get in a late round of batting practice indoors, but manager Don Mattingly was noncommittal when asked if Ethier would be available off the bench.

Ethier was hit in the calf late in the Dodgers’ 1-0 win over the Cubs on August 4. Mattingly said the outfielder has been dealing with tightness in the area ever since. The pain worsened to the point that Ethier visited a doctor Tuesday; a better update on the severity of the injury should be available after the game.

Skip Schumaker took Ethier’s place in center field and was inserted directly into the fifth spot in the lineup against the New York Mets’ Matt Harvey. Schumaker is batting .286 against right-handers this season compared to .287 for Ethier. Both have one single in their career against Harvey — Ethier in three at-bats, Schumaker in six.

Harvey enters the game second in the National League in earned run average (2.09).

Dodgers spoil Shin-Soo Choo’s moment in the spotlight — twice.

Shin-Soo Choo has attracted a lot of attention since his Cincinnati Reds landed in Los Angeles. He and Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu are the only two Korean-born players active in the major leagues, and tomorrow’s game with Ryu starting has been a focal point of the Korean-language media the past two days.

Shin-Soo  Choo

Korean-born Cincinnati Reds outfielder Shin-Soo Choo had a larger press conference Thursday than perhaps any visiting players at Dodger Stadium this year. (J.P. Hoornstra on Instagram)


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Skip Schumaker discusses Ryan Braun and Mark McGwire.

Ryan Braun

Dodgers utilityman Skip Schumaker believes Ryan Braun should be suspended from Major League Baseball for life. (Getty Images)

Dodgers utilityman Skip Schumaker was among the most outspoken players on the topic of Ryan Braun‘s recent suspension. Here’s what he said:

“Watching him talk right now makes me sick,” Schumaker said. “I can’t stand it. It needs to be eliminated from the game. I have an autographed Braun jersey in my baseball room that I’ll be taking down. I don’t want my son identifying what I’ve worked so hard to get to and work so hard to have, I don’t want him comparing Braun to me.

“In my opinion, he should be suspended — lifetime ban. One strike, you’re out. It’s enough. It’s ridiculous,” Schumaker added. “He lied to a lot of people. I was convinced, after that MVP, that he didn’t do it.”

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